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On the 24th of February, 1815, the watch-tower of Notre-Dame de la Garde signalled the arrival of the three-master Pharaon, from Smyrna, Trieste, and Naples.
The usual crowd of curious spectators immediately filled the quay of Fort Saint-Jean, for at Marseilles the arrival of a ship is always a great event, especially when that ship, as was the case with the Pharaon, has been built, rigged, and laden in the dockyard of old Phocaea and belongs to a shipowner of their own town.
Meanwhile the vessel drew on, and was approaching the harbour under topsails, jib, and foresail, but so slowly and with such an air of melancholy that the spectators, always ready to sense misfortune, began to ask one another what ill-luck had overtaken those on board. However, those experienced in navigation soon saw that if there had been any ill-luck, the ship had not been the sufferer, for she advanced in perfect condition and under skilful handling; the anchor was ready to be dropped, the bowsprit shrouds loose. Beside the pilot, who was steering the Pharaon through the narrow entrance to the port, there stood a young man, quick of gesture and keen of eye, who watched every movement of the ship while repeating each of the pilot's orders.
The vague anxiety that prevailed among the crowd affected one of the spectators so much that he could not wait until the ship reached the port; jumping into a small boat, he ordered the boatman to row him alongside the Pharaon, which he reached opposite the creek of La Réserve.
On seeing this man approach, the young sailor left his post beside the pilot, and, hat in hand, leant over the ship's bulwarks. He was a tall, lithe young man of about twenty years of age, with fine dark eyes and hair as black as ebony; his whole manner bespoke that air of calm resolution peculiar to those who, from their childhood, have been accustomed to face danger.
"Ah, is that you, Dantès!" cried the man in the boat. "You are looking pretty gloomy on board. What has happened?"
"A great misfortune, Monsieur Morrel," replied the young man, "a great misfortune, especially for me! We lost our brave Captain Leclère of Civita Vecchia."
"What happened to him?" asked the shipowner. "What has happened to our worthy captain?"
"He died of brain-fever in dreadful agony. Alas, monsieur, the whole thing was most unexpected. After a long conversation with the harbourmaster, Captain Leclère left Naples in a great state of agitation. In twenty-four hours he was in high fever, and died three days afterwards. We performed the usual burial service. He is now at rest off the Isle of El Giglio, sewn up in his hammock, with a thirty-six pounder shot at his head and another at his heels. We have brought home his sword and his cross of honour to his widow. But was it worth his while," added the young man, with a sad smile, "to wage war against the English for ten long years only to die in his bed like everybody else?"
"Well, well, Monsieur Edmond," replied the owner, who appeared more comforted with every moment, "we are all mortal, and the old must make way for the young, otherwise there would be no promotion. And the cargo…?"
"Is all safe and sound, Monsieur Morrel, take my word for it. It has been a voyage that will bring you in a good twenty-five thousand francs!"
As they were just past the Round Tower the young man shouted out: "Ready there! Lower topsails, foresail, and jib!"
The order was executed as promptly as on board a man-of-war.
"Lower away! and brail all!"
At this last order, all the sails were lowered and the ship moved on almost imperceptibly.
"And now, Monsieur Morrel," said Dantès, "here is your purser, Monsieur Danglars, coming out of his cabin. If you will step on board he will furnish you with every particular. I must look after the anchoring and dress the ship in mourning."
The owner did not wait to be invited twice. He seized a rope which Dantès flung to him, and, with an agility that would have done credit to a sailor, climbed up the ladder attached to the side of the ship, while the young man, returning to his duty, left the conversation to the individual whom he had announced under the name of Danglars, and who now came toward the owner. He was a man of twenty-five or twenty-six, of unprepossessing countenance, obsequious to his superiors, insolent to his subordinates; and besides the fact that he was the purserand pursers are always unpopular on boardhe was personally as much disliked by the crew as Edmond Dantès was beloved by them.
"Well, Monsieur Morrel," said Danglars, "you have heard of the misfortune that has befallen us?"
"Yes, yes, poor Captain Leclère! He was a brave and honest man!"
"And a first-rate seaman, grown old between sky and ocean, as a man should be who is entrusted with the interests of so important a firm as that of Morrel and Son," replied Danglars.
"But," replied the owner, watching Dantès at his work, "it seems to me that a sailor need not be so old to understand his business; our friend Edmond seems to understand it thoroughly, and to require no instructions from anyone."
"Yes," said Danglars, casting a look of hatred on Dantès, "yes, he is young, and youth is never lacking in self-confidence. The captain was hardly dead when, without consulting anyone, he assumed command of the ship, and was the cause of our losing a day and a half off the Isle of Elba instead of making direct for Marseilles."
"As captain's mate, it was his duty to take command, but he acted wrongly in losing a day and half off Elba unless the ship was in need of repair."
"The ship was as right as I am and as I hope you are, Monsieur Morrel; it was nothing more than a whim on his part, and a fancy for going ashore, that caused the delay off Elba."
"Dantès," called the owner, turning toward the young man, "just step this way, will you?"
"One moment, monsieur," he replied, "and I shall be with you." Then turning to the crew, he called out: "Let go!"
The anchor was instantly dropped and the chain ran out with a great rattle. In spite of the pilot's presence Dantès remained at his post until this last task was accomplished, and then he added: "Lower the flag and pennant to half-mast and slope the yards!"
"You see," said Danglars, "he already imagines himself captain."
"And so he is," said his companion. "Why should we not give him the post? I know he is young, but he seems to be an able and thoroughly experienced seaman."
A cloud passed over Danglar's brow.
"Your pardon, Monsieur Morrel," said Dantès, approaching. "Now that the boat is anchored, I am at your service. I believe you called me."
Danglars retreated a step or two.
"I wished to know the reason of the delay off Elba."
"I am unaware of the reason, monsieur; I only followed the last instructions of Captain Leclère, who, when dying, gave me a packet for the Maréchal Bertrand."
"And did you see Maréchal?"
Morrel glanced around him and then drew Dantès on one side.
"How is the Emperor?" he asked eagerly.
"Very well, so far as I could see. He came into the Maréchal's room while I was there."
"Did you speak to him?"
"It was he who spoke to me, monsieur," said Dantès, smiling. "He asked me some questions about the ship, about the time of her departure for Marseilles, the route she had followed and the cargo she carried. I believe that had she been empty and I the master, he would have bought her; but I told him I was only the mate and that the ship belonged to the firm of Morrel and Son. 'Ah, ah,' said he. 'I know the firm. The Morrels have all been shipowners for generations, and there was a Morrel who served in the same regiment with me when I was garrisoned at Valance.'"
"Quite true! Quite true!" Monsieur Morrel exclaimed, delighted. "It was Policar Morrel, my uncle, who afterwards became a captain. Dantès, you must tell my uncle that the Emperor still remembers him and you will see tears of joy in the old soldier's eyes. Well, well!" he added, giving Dantès a friendly tap on the shoulder, "you were quite right in carrying out Captain Leclère's instructions and putting in at the Isle of Elba, though if it were known that you delivered a packet to the Maréchal and talked with the Emperor you might get into trouble."
"How so?" said Dantès. "I don't even know what the packet contained, and the Emperor merely made such inquiries as he would of any newcomer. But excuse me, monsieur, for one moment, here are the medical and customs officers coming on board."
As the young man departed Danglars approached.
"Well," said he, "it would seem that he has given you good reasons for dropping anchor off Porto Ferrajo?"
"Most satisfactory ones, dear Monsieur Danglars."
"So much the better," replied the purser, "for it is never pleasant to see a comrade neglect his duty."
"Dantès certainly did his, and there is nothing more to be said on the matter. It was Captain Leclère who ordered him to call at Elba."
"Talking of Captain Leclére, hasn't Dantès given you a letter from him?"
"No, was there one for me?"
"I think that, in addition to the packet, Captain Leclère gave him a letter."
"What packet do you mean, Danglars?"
"The one Dantès delivered at Porto Ferrajo."
"How do you know that he had a packet for Porto Ferrajo?"
Danglars turned red.
"I was passing the captain's door, which was ajar, and saw him give Dantès the packet and the letter."
"He has not mentioned a letter to me, but if he has one I have no doubt he will give it to me."
"Then, Monsieur Morrel, pray don't mention it to Dantès. Perhaps I am mistaken."
Just then the young man returned and Danglars retreated as before.
"Well, Dantès, have you finished now?"
"Then you can come and dine with us?"
"I beg you to excuse me, Monsieur Morrel. I owe my first visit to my father. All the same, I greatly appreciate the honour you pay me."
"You are quite right, Dantès. I know you are a good son."
"And do you know if my father is quite well?" he asked with some hesitation.
"Oh, I believe so, my dear Edmond, but I have not seen him lately. At any rate I am sure that he has not wanted for anything during your absence."
Dantès smiled. "My father is proud, monsieur, and even had he been in want of everything, I doubt whether he would have asked anything of anybody except God."
"Well, then, after this first visit has been paid, may we count on you?"
"Once more I must ask you excuse me, Monsieur Morrel. There is yet another visit which I am most anxious to pay."
"True, Dantès; I had forgotten that there is at the Catalans someone who is awaiting you with as much impatience as your fatherthe fair Mercédès."
"Well! well!" said the shipowner. "Now I understand why she came to me three times for new of the Pharaon. Upon my word, Edmond, you are to be envied: she is a handsome girl. But don't let me keep you any longer. You have looked after my affairs so well that it is but your due that you should now have time to look after your own. Are you in need of money?"
"No, thank you, monsieur, I have all my pay from the voyage; that is nearly three months' salary."
"You are a careful fellow, Edmond."
"Say rather that I have a poor father."
"Yes, yes, I know you are a good son. Off you go to your father. I too have a son, and I should be very angry with anyone who kept him away from me after a three months' voyage."
"I have your leave, monsieur?" said the young man, saluting.
"Yes, if you have nothing more to say to me. By the way, before Captain Leclère died, did he not give you a letter for me?"
"He was unable to write, monsieur. But that reminds me, I shall have to ask you for a fortnight's leave."
"To get married?"
"First of all, and then for a journey to Paris."
"Very well, take what time you need. It will take us quite six weeks to unload the cargo, and we shall not be ready to put to sea again for another three months. But you must be back in three months, for the Pharaon cannot sail without her captain," he added, patting the young sailor on the back.
"Without her captain, did you say?" cried Dantès, his eyes sparkling with joy. "Oh! if you really mean that, monsieur, you are touching on my fondest hopes. Is it really your intention to make me captain of the Pharaon?"
"If it depended on me alone, my dear Dantès, I should give you my hand saying, 'It is settled,' but I have a partner, and you know the Italian proverb, Chi ha compagne ha padrone. But half the battle is won since you already have my vote. Leave it to me to get my partner's for you. Now, off you go; I shall remain here awhile and go over the accounts with Danglars. By the by, were you satisfied with him on the voyage?"
"That depends on what you mean by that question. If you mean as comrade I must say no, for I do not think he has been my friend ever since the day I was foolish enough to propose to him that we should stop for ten minutes at the Isle of Monte Cristo to settle a little dispute. I never ought to have made the suggestion, and he was quite right in refusing. If you mean as purser I have nothing to say against him, and I think you will be satisfied with the way in which he has discharged his duties."
Thereupon the young sailor jumped into the boat, seated himself in the stern and ordered the oarsmen to put him ashore at the Cannebière. With a smile on his lips M. Morrel glanced after him till he saw him jump ashore. There he was immediately lost in the motley crowd that, from five o'clock in the morning until nine o'clock in the evening, collects in that famous street of the Cannebière, of which the modern Phocaeans are so proud that they say in all seriousness, and with that peculiar accent which lends so much character to what they say, "If Paris owned the Cannebière she would be a little Marseilles."
On turning round the shipowner saw Danglars standing behind him. The latter, who appeared to be awaiting his orders, was in reality, like him, following the movements of the young sailor. But how different was the expression in the eyes of each of these two men as they gazed after Dantès' retreating figure!
All new material in this edition is copyright © 1998 by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.